The people who know me best know I am stubborn and have strong opinions. Some of them are well formed, and some of them are sort of innately rooted from my upbringing. In our society today, there are so many people like me with strong opinions, and the handling of such is poor and has caused a very divided world and church. It’s painful to watch, and I really don’t want to be a part of tearing the world down.
Recently I reconnected with a close high school friend. She and I were both raised in strong, conservative Christian families. Our life paths have been very different, however. She lives with her partner/fiancé in a big city on the west coast, and I live in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Indiana with my husband and 3 babies. She does not consider herself religious, and well, I’m married to a minister and am very devoted to Jesus. She believes in socialism and is a progressive Democrat. I don’t fully understand politics (Ha!), but I would probably be considered a moderate Republican.
Are you sweating over those differences? Because people like us are bound to just be at odds and hateful to one another right? Both of us probably think…how can she believe that way?! Is she insane?
I think that line of thinking is what keeps people divided. When you believe so strongly about something, it’s easy to believe that anyone who thinks otherwise is nuts. I’ll admit, I’ve thought, “HOW CAN SHE THINK THAT WAY?!”
But here’s the thing, my friend has a heart like mine. We are truly kindred spirits (Anne of Green Gables, anyone?). Deeply feeling. Deeply compassionate. So how do we come to very different conclusions about all the issues? One day I was thinking, “How can my friend be so loving and still believe <insert ethical view here>?” So rather than remain ignorant and stand in judgment, I asked her. I essentially said, “I believe A. how is it that you believe B? I do not understand that as a valid stance.”
She is not lazy, ignorant, selfish, or unkind. She is a GOOD person. And instead of viewing me as a narrow minded, hateful Christian…you know what she did? She validated my beliefs and then shared her own.
The conversations we’ve been having are BEAUTIFUL. They have brought a tiny bit of unity in a very divided world. I’m still a conservative Christian in the Midwest. That isn’t going to change, and I don’t see her views changing either. But we’ve grown in compassion and understanding of one another’s beliefs.
In James 1:19, the Bible says, “…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Could both sides do that? Rather than angrily assuming the other person is ignorant and hateful, could we STOP TO LISTEN? In a world that oversimplifies opposing beliefs with sarcastic memes, could we ask some honest, respectful questions, and then listen without getting angry?
These conversations have been priceless for me. I still don’t agree with my friend’s views on a lot of things, but I’ve been challenged to evaluate my beliefs and determine if they’re actually well formed. I have solidified some, and I have questioned and researched others. She opened my eyes to issues I didn’t even realize existed. My worldview is still firmly rooted in Christ, but I am starting to see with wider eyes. I prayed that the LORD would “break my heart for what breaks His”, and I believe He is leading me through talks with people who have very different experiences than my own.
Can I encourage you to do the same? Instead of arguing on a friend’s Facebook post with sarcasm or a disrespectful tone, could you send an honest, raw message asking them to expound upon their beliefs? It would be a small step toward unity and a kinder world.